A Mayor for All Citizens: Maury County’s Andy Ogles Talks About His Bi-Partisan Role and Abuses of Emergency Powers

A Mayor for All Citizens: Maury County’s Andy Ogles Talks About His Bi-Partisan Role and Abuses of Emergency Powers


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles in the studio to talk about what’s important about being a mayor and the testimony he will provide in the General Assembly regarding the exercising of emergency powers during COVID.

Leahy: In studio with Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles. Andy,  I’m telling you when we have the live stream video camera where everybody can see what’s happens off-air. What happens off-air is a little bit more fun. Well we have fun all the time.

Ogles: We have conversations with jokes, we laugh. Of course, when you come and came in at the break, we were literally cutting up 30 seconds ago. but that’s what that’s part of the fun. Of course, you’ll have to shave.

Leahy: I know. This is why it takes a skilled to run for public office and part of the skill is you have to like get up and you know fix yourself up and look good every day. I’m way past that. (Laughs) I just can’t do it every day, but when we get the video stream we’ll have to do that.

Ogles: I’ll take issue with that. I don’t know that running for public office takes skill. I think you just have to have… a problem. (Leahy laughs)

Leahy: It’s not a problem. You have to have a commitment to a set of ideas. And you have to be persistent. I think. What would be really hard for me is as it’s just you and me talking right? You know when you’re in public office and this is one of the reasons because there was a period of time when I was a kid, I was certain I would be president of the United States. I was certain then as I became an adult and I saw what you have to do to be elected and then when you’re elected here’s the problem.

And you’re very good at this, but I would not be good at this at all. You have a duty to every single resident of Maury County. Every single resident of Maury County can come up and asked you something and you have a duty to respond to that right? You have to be a very patient and kind person to do that. And I’m not that patient. And I’m sometimes not that kind unfortunately.

Ogles: And I think that’s a good point. Obviously, in Maury County the county mayor it’s a partisan position to run as a Republican. Known across the state as a very conservative Republican. But like you say, I have 100,000 people that live in Maury County. I’m the county mayor for all of those people. For all of them.

Leahy: And even if there’s somebody in Maury County who absolutely is let’s say even if far lefty or just somebody that just doesn’t like you right you still have a duty to that person.

Ogles: But you know when you’re making decisions I’m looking at what’s in the best interest of the whole. And sometimes whether it’s the radical left or perhaps at times they even the radical right they can be the loudest voices although they’re the minority of the voices. It’s a small fragment of the 100,000

Leahy: But they’re enthusiastic and vocal.

Ogles: That’s right. And you see elected officials cave to this very loud voice that represents a very small portion of society. And you see that happen at the local level at the county and then all the way up to national politics. Look at the Democratic Party and how it’s been hijacked by a very vocal left that doesn’t represent most of America.

Leahy: I was on a call with somebody very well known and they said let’s face it. The Democratic party is run by an insane 10 percent of the population. And my words, not yours. But yes, they’re loud and they’re insane and because they’re loud and repetitive now we have a lot of insane things happening as part of public policy. Now, you mentioned something interesting that you actually are going to be testifying before the Committee of Tennessee General Assembly later today. What will you be testifying about?

Ogles: Throughout COVID there have been emergency powers exercised. Some would argue myself included that emergency powers have been abused. And as part of that, you’ve had emergency powers that have been delegated down to mayors and municipalities.

Leahy: So let me just stop. You when you say that the governor has delegated emergency powers down to mayors of counties.

Ogles: That’s correct.

Leahy: Is there a legal authority for that delegation?

Ogles: There is yes, and no. It depends on the timing and words matter. We’ve talked about this before on the show. State law, the TCA code, Tennessee code annotated.

Leahy: Whenever you see something like TCA with the little squiggles and then the numbers that’s the actual law of Tennessee. Tennessee code annotated means every law that’s passed then is put into a structure and given a number and a title and that’s how you know what the law is today. It’s updated every year.

Ogles: That’s right. The law, the TCA code is a contract between your government and the people of Tennessee. And so words matter. There’s a whole section of the legal profession that is based around contract law. And so you have in state law a phrasing that specifies when during an emergency the governor can delegate powers.

And it has to be prior to or threat of an emergency. And again, I know that’s kind of nuanced but it’s significant. And the reason is is that only the general assembly can give me my authority, not the governor. And so what we’ve had is during COVID and in the name of COVID to save the world, we violated state law and nobody’s done anything about it and I’m quite upset about it.

Leahy: And you should be because it gets back to this. What is the nature of the contract between citizens and the government? It is the rule of law.

Ogles: That’s right.

Leahy: And so when the rule of law is violated by those charged with the implementation of the rule of law that undercuts the very core of our social organization.

Ogles: And I would say that they’re the guardians of set law. And so at any point in time and you look at history that when the contract with the people the subjects you want to hire subjects of the government t becomes one-sided are the guardians who are there to enforce and protect the law to make sure that the laws are applied evenly and inappropriately suddenly can change those at will and abuse them at will you no longer have a contract right?

We’ve slipped into this totalitarian type of mentality in the name of COVID and during of all the laws of all the times your emergency powers law should be carefully constructed and reviewed. If you’ve ever been in the military or in law enforcement after you have an engagement. There’s an after-action report to look at how you engaged.

What could you have done better? What were your missed opportunities? And what’s not happening yet is what has happened during COVID-19 have happened, what should not have happened, and that’s part of why I’m going to be at the legislature. There some things that have happened during COVID that should not have happened. And we’ve got to fix it.

Leahy: I agree entirely with that. Have you testified before the Tennessee General Assembly ever before?

Ogles: I have, yes.

Leahy: What is that like? How does that happen? How much time do you have? Are people nice to you? Are they mean to you? Do they yell and scream at you? Or do they listen politely?

Ogles: You could always have a committee hearing that goes sideways, but that would be the exception, not the rule. It’s very orderly and typically they’re asking questions. You may have someone who’s passionate about an issue but this is pretty straightforward. You’re talking about the legal construct. The words are in black and white. It’s really not up to debate. And I think what you have is you have some folks whether being the general assembly or maybe perhaps advising the governor that just isn’t familiar with the law and exactly how it’s written, whereas I am.

Leahy: So when you go up there, they have separate committee rooms right?

Ogles: Yes.

Leahy: And typically you wait a period of time right before the chairman calls you in?

Ogles: Yeah, so you’ll have the state representative or state senator that’s the sponsor of the bill and the sponsor will get up and give a presentation to the chairman.

Leahy: Typically when a bill is introduced it has a sponsor and then it is assigned to a committee. And it’s a committee that decides whether to move it out or kill it.

Ogles: It has a life cycle if you will. It goes from subcommittee to full committee. From there it will be calendars or calendar and rule then it would go to the floor etc. But during that process of evaluating the details of the legislation sometimes you’ll have sponsors of a bill that will bring experts or just key witnesses in. Almost like a courtroom to give testimony to the validity or invalidity of a piece of legislation.

Leahy: And as a county mayor you would be an expert on the emergency powers.

Ogles: And how it was applied.

Leahy: And how it was applied.

Ogles: That’s right.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Andy Ogles” by Andy Ogles. Background Photo “Tennessee Capitol” by Peggy Anderson. CC BY-SA 4.0.







Tennessee State Rep. Chris Todd Joins Host Leahy to Speak About His Role in the House and Keeping in Touch with Constituents

Tennessee State Rep. Chris Todd Joins Host Leahy to Speak About His Role in the House and Keeping in Touch with Constituents


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Representative (R), Chris Todd of Jackson, to the newsmakers line to describe his background and discuss upcoming legislation in the House of Representatives.

Leahy: We are delighted to welcome to the newsmakers line, State Representative Chris Todd a Republican from Jackson, Tennessee. Good morning, Chris.

Todd: Good morning, Michael. How are you guys today?

Leahy: We’re great. You have a very interesting background here. You are a graduate of Union University which is one of the very best smaller colleges in America right there in Jackson. You have a degree in biology and you have an erosion control business. I guess that is what your main line of work is.

Todd: That is correct.

Leahy: How long you been doing that?

Todd: Well in our own business probably about 25 years. Two or three years prior to that with another company that I helped start this line of work with. And then prior to that. I was with TDEC. The Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation as a regulator for about four and a half years.

Leahy: What is that business like these days in the land of COVID is it hard easy the same different?

Todd: The greatest challenge we have is getting employees and employees to show up for work. When the government is paying them to sit at home that makes it really tough.

Leahy: That’s a very interesting comment. And so what I love about our state legislature here is it is basically citizen legislators. You are paid to come up here a modest amount. But most legislators are working for a living. Many on the Republican side are small businessmen. Does that frame your political ideology coming from a small business perspective?

Todd: Without question it does. As a matter of fact, I never really thought of being in public service like this most of my life. And then in the last 10 or 12 years got involved with the National Federation of Independent Business. As a small business owner, I found that they represent small businesses in our voice and not only in the state House but in Congress and found out how well-respected they were because they listen to their members.

They are member-driven. Completely member-driven. So that got me involved in certain issues like income tax, gas tax, and other things over the years. And that involvement and learning how our state legislature works really tweaked my interest. And then when my representative, Jimmy Eldridge decided not to run again I had some folks encouraging me just kind of out of the blue to run for office.

And I prayed about it and considered it and of course when I went home and told my wife that we need to pray about this. She said oh no, I’m sure the Lord wouldn’t lead you in anything like that. (Leahy chuckles) After a week or two of discussion and prayer with some friends as matter of fact, that joined us in that we all felt for some reason. I was supposed to run for office never really thinking I was necessarily supposed to win.

But it has been a true blessing to be able to serve people in a different capacity while still running a business and staying in touch. And being in the General Assembly is such an honor. Being in the House of Representatives you have to stay in touch with people. When I was running my wife, and I were knocking on doors day after day. Sweating through the summer months, meeting people, and going to things constantly.

She said y’all got to change this if we have to do this for two years I don’t know how we can do this. But once I was there for just a brief period of time I realized how wise it was to have the House elected every two years. Because you cannot get out of touch with the people and get reelected. You have to stay involved. You have to stay in front of the people and be accountable to the people. So it’s a level of accountability our founders put in place. It was very very wise.

Leahy: You are the chairman of a House subcommittee. Agriculture and natural resources. That seems like a very smart place for somebody with a biology degree and erosion control business to be placed. What’s the big agenda there?

Todd: I don’t know that there is a big agenda but generally pokes in that position have had an agricultural background, which is fantastic. Agriculture is such a huge part of our state’s economy. I bring to the table something a little bit different. Something from the environment side from the natural resources side and understand a decent amount of that part of our regulations and laws.

And so it’s just a different angle that I can bring a level of expertise to. As I tell people a lot I know a lot about very little things and then I know a little about several things. So where I can put that knowledge of my career choice to best use is where I wanted to serve if our Speaker wanted me there and he apparently did.

Leahy: We’re talking with Representative Chris Todd from Jackson. Chris, what are your personal priorities for this session of the Tennessee General Assembly?

Todd: I think if I were to put that at a 10,000-foot view, it would be to restore any infringements. Remove any infringements of citizens’ rights. And that comes under several categories. One in the area of the U.S. Constitution Second Amendment where the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Well, we’ve infringed on it over the years an awful lot.

And so trying to remove those infringements is a big deal to me. Also when it comes to emergency powers. I believe we have several laws on the books that are truly unconstitutional never been challenged and never been tested. But I think this General Assembly is making some strides toward streamlining that and making those emergencies powers apply to what they were truly meant to apply for. And not have the administrative part of our government the too overbearing and take too many of our liberties away.

Leahy: I’m reading into that. It sounds to me like you’re saying or it sounds to me like the argument there would be that the governor has overreached on his emergency powers and probably in giving powers to certain county mayors he’s overreached. Am I characterizing that correctly?

Todd: In one respect. And that is in respect to comparing those decisions to what the Constitution says not what’s on the law books. I believe he has followed the law. But I don’t believe those laws that we have on the books all are completely constitutional. And that’s what I wanted to assess this General Assembly and try to make right.

Leahy: Does that require a statutory change or is that an issue of a court challenge? And how would you make it right?

Todd: I think statutory change is where it’s at. There may be court challenges out there. I don’t know. I’ve not seen anything on that. but I think going through the process of what we’re doing day-to-day right now people have proposed bills of all types. Everything from regulating the local health departments all the way to the emergency powers of the governor. And I think that’s where it really starts.

That’s where we can have the debate, have the discussion, and make the changes that are necessary but still give the governor the powers that he needs to have in a true emergency. I don’t think anyone ever dreamt that those laws on the books would actually apply to an illness. And especially in illness on this level. But they have chosen to apply them and I believe under the law they have been correct. I just don’t think some of those laws are constitutional.

Leahy: Is there any specific bill that’s before a committee right now that would address the statutory problems of emergency powers?

Todd: I believe there are. I know one that Representative Jason Zachary has deals with the health departments. the six regional health departments were and I enjoy one of those health departments in my district. But the specifics of that and how it’s being amended. I couldn’t go into that. That’s not something I’m watching on an hour-to-hour basis.

And I know this week it has gone through at least one committee and probably will go through another committee next week. And so things as you well know as the legislation moves along sometimes there are tweaks to it with amendments to make it better. And so I believe it has passed its first hurdle this week.

And so I will be watching it a little more closely watch it goes a little further. But there are many others. I’ve been focused on the 15 bills that I have on my list to carry. And it’s such a scramble this time of year to get things put on notice and be at the right committee at the right time and present your bill and know what you’re talking about. And it’s a really interesting gig to try to keep up with on a daily basis.

Leahy: During session do you stay in Nashville, or do you commute from Jackson?

Todd: I’m here on Monday and right now while we’re in budget hearings. I’m here Sunday evening through Thursday afternoon.

Leahy: Well, one of these mornings why don’t you come by in studio, and we can chat here live in-studio on the Tennessee Star Report.

Todd: I’d like to do that. We may schedule that here very shortly. Maybe on a Monday morning or something before our budget hearings.

Leahy: Let’s do that. Hey, thanks so much for joining us state representative Chris Todd, Republican from Jackson. We look forward to having you in studio. Thanks again for being with us.

Todd: Thank you, Michael.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio













Tennessee State Rep. Jason Zachary Weighs in on Current Legislation and the Senate’s Passing of the Transgender Sports Bill

Tennessee State Rep. Jason Zachary Weighs in on Current Legislation and the Senate’s Passing of the Transgender Sports Bill


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed (R) TN State Representative Jason Zachary to the newsmakers line to talk about current bills in the General Assembly and the passing of the transgender sports bill.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line right now by our good friend State Representative Jason Zachary who’s going to give us a little bit of an update about what’s going on as the Tennessee General Assembly continues and begins to wind down I think. Welcome, Representative Zachary.

Zachary: Good morning. How are you guys?

Leahy: We are great. Of course in studio Roger Simon from The Epoch Times and Andy Ogles the mayor of Maury County. So Jason, what are the big bill’s there that you expect to be passed in the next week or so in the House of Representatives?

Zachary: Sure. Thanks for having me on and mayor, good to know that you’re on. It has been a while since I’ve talked to you. Guys, the great news last night from the Senate is that the Transgender Sports Bill passed. And so that’s a big step. It’s going to be on the House floor probably next Monday. And so that’s a big move forward. I’ve got a piece of legislation to protect our children and to protect our little girls who are in restrooms and locker rooms.

I’ve got that legislation. We’ve got constitutional carry coming down the pike. I’ve got my bill Wednesday to move the health boards to advisory roles in four of our six large counties. The health boards are basically ruling as an oligarchy as a fourth branch of government. I’ve got a bill to address that. And we’ve taken big steps regarding education.

The mayor, I’m sure is very interested in our broadband initiative and expansion that we’re looking that I’m involved in because it’s what I do for a living. So really good thing going on. Revenue for our state, we are one of seven states that have grown economically since March of last year. And that’s because conservative principles work. We’re not perfect. We can always do better and always take big steps forward, but we’re in a really good place in Tennessee and I think we’ve got some really good initiatives this year that we’ll be able to pass over the next couple of months to really further our conservative principles.

Leahy: Walk us through the path of this transgender bill that would be continuing to allow girls to compete only in girls’ sports. A common-sense bill and we won’t have transgender men, women, and men competing in women’s sports. It passed in the Senate very handily. Now, what is the path in the House of Representatives of that bill or a companion-related bill?

Zachary: Sure. It passed sub last week. I believe it’s in full, I believe that today. I’m not on education, but I think that’s today. It’s being carried by Representative Cepicky who is the mayor’s representative. He’s done an awesome job championing this and he was my seatmate last year. So I know him and this bill really well. When it passes, I believe it’s today.

It’ll pass today come to my committee, which I chair on Thursday, which is calendar and rules and we’ll get that scheduled for Monday. So by Monday of next week, this transgender sports bill protecting the integrity of girls high school middle school sports in our state should be passed Monday by the House overwhelmingly and then the governor will sign that right away. And that will be a big win in a big step forward for our state.

Leahy: Now that bill, will you pass exactly the same bill as the Senate, or will there have to have to be some back and forth on it?

Zachary: And that’s a good question. I have not seen the Senate version. We have so many bills coming through that were responsible for over here. I have not seen that version. I actually texted Rep. Cepicky this morning asking some questions about it. So I don’t know if we’re going to substitute or conform to theirs or move forward with ours. I’m not sure how that will work. We’re going to get it passed and there may be some tweaks that need to be made. But it’s going to pass the House next week.

Leahy: So the governor will sign it into law. Let me ask you this. Will the lawsuits begin from the left?

Zachary: As they typically do. Unfortunately, that’s the pattern we’re in of which we could do a whole show on the judiciary and the judiciary overreach. And there’s a reason our founders listed that as the third branch of government mentioned in the Constitution because it was meant to be the weakest. And we the people have allowed it to become more powerful the most powerful.

So there’s no doubt that there will be legal challenges. But we’re prepared for that. And I think that bill was written in a way knowing there would be legal challenges and there was some meeting of the minds and support from the Alliance Defending Freedom out of Washington for this piece of legislation. So it’s written in a way and should be able to withstand any lawsuits that come our way.

Ogles: Yeah, Jason by the way, this is a real ghost. Thank you for all that you’ve done. This is an important bill. The ACLU has already announced that they plan on suing the state once this passes. So yeah buckle up buttercup because here they come. Again, it’s important for states like Tennessee, and like other conservative states to lead on these issues and really provide and interject some common sense into this culture that we’re in now, where Dr. Seuss can no longer be read to children.

Zachary: It’s absurd guys. Mayor, you are right. It’s absurd that we’re having to legislate common sense again. I have a bill coming up that I’ll probably put on notice next week that again protects the integrity of our dadgum restrooms and locker rooms for our little girls. I mean that’s basically what this bill does. The fact that we’re having to do this and spend the time legislating common sense is mind-blowing, but this is where we are.

And we as a conservative state of Tennessee we need to plant our flag in the ground say we’re not moving from this. Period. Truth is truth. The most basic truth is that God created us, man and woman. And we don’t move from that. We don’t shy away from that. We boldly do what we need to do to firewall and protect Tennessee from the lunacy that we see coming from Washington and other areas of our country. We’re not doing that crap here.

Simon: Not just Tennessee, I think America’s going to thank you for passing this. This is a case where the left overreach is almost laughable. I mean not really laughable, disgusting maybe. I think that most Democrats probably are rolling their eyes at this and keeping their mouths shut to be good boys. But I think people are going to thank you for it.

Zachary: And to your point, it’s interesting, without divulging names I have talked to members of the other side of the aisle who are friends of mine that are Democrats who have said dude, I’m not saying anything. I’m just going to quietly vote. I may not even be in the room, but you won’t hear me say a word in opposition to this. Because again guys, it’s common sense.

And we all have daughters, nieces and, moms. We all have women in our lives that we love and we know we know exactly what’s going to happen. Whether it’s an elementary school robbing our little girls of their innocence when boys are going in the bathroom. We know exactly how it’s going to go down in high school.

I’ve got a high school in the district next to mine, Bearden High School, one of the largest high schools in Knox County already having a problem. Two weeks ago I had a parent reach out to me that has a high school daughter because they are having problems with boys coming into the girls’ restrooms.

Leahy: What a shock that is. That’s what is going on. State Rep. Jason Zachary, thanks so much for joining us and giving us an update. We really appreciate it.

Zachary: Absolutely guys. Thanks for having me on.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio















Tennessee State Senator Paul Bailey Discusses Upcoming Special and Legislative Session in the General Assembly

Tennessee State Senator Paul Bailey Discusses Upcoming Special and Legislative Session in the General Assembly


Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed TN (R) Senator Paul Bailey to the newsmakers line.

At the top of the second hour, Bailey discussed plans for the upcoming special session which would revisit education options for students and offering a potential summer session while managing budget expectations. He also outlined plans for TennCare and Medicaid ensuring that people currently served would not suffer any reduction in services.

Leahy: We are joined now by State Senator Paul Bailey who is the chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Welcome, Senator Bailey.

Bailey: Well, thank you very much for having me this morning Michael Patrick.

Leahy: Well, we’re delighted to have you on here Senator Bailey. And I just have to say your official portrait at the Tennessee General Assembly is just is fantastic. (Bailey chuckles) You’ve got a cowboy hat on and you just you know, you look great. (Chuckles)

Bailey: Well, thank you. You know most people know back in the district that that my family and I we ride and show quarter horses. So I just thought it would be kind of a different look and I’d stand out above all the rest if I had my cowboy hat on in my official state photo.

Leahy: Well, officially we like the look Senator Bailey. So that’s great.

Bailey: Well thank you.

Leahy: That’s a good move on your part. So that as Chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee you have a very important job in the state senate. And there are only 33 members of the state senate. I think what is it this time? Is it 27 Republicans and six Democrats this time I think?

Bailey: Yes, sir. That is correct. We did lose a member from Davidson County. Steve Dickerson a Republican member so that moved our number from 28 down to 27.

Leahy: So the General Assembly convened yesterday and I guess this week it’s mostly an organizational activity going on. And then next Tuesday you will convene in a special session to deal with education issues do I have that right?

Bailey: Yes, you do. Now, let me say this week we’re also going to tackle passing a resolution to accept a block grant offer from CMS in regards to TennCare. Back in 2019, I carried legislation sent to CMS to revitalize their TennCare system through a block grant. We were the first state in the nation to actually apply for the block grant.

The Trump administration is offering this to us. And so we are trying to get a resolution passed by the end of this week. So we may go through into Friday to get this done. So everyone knows that unfortunately, Trump’s going to be leaving on the 20th. So we have to have this resubmitted to his administration to Seema Verma who is the CMS director for approval and that’s huge news for the state of Tennessee.

Leahy: And it looks like a little curveball has been thrown it seems to me. Again I’m just reading the news and perhaps get your reaction to this. So Jim Cooper the representative from the Nashville area in the House of Representatives apparently has sent a letter calling on President-elect Biden to cancel this block grant. Have you seen that?

Bailey: Yes, I have heard that. And so here’s the thing. Tennessee’s current TennCare waiver and Medicaid waiver is due to renew on June 30 of this year in 2021. We will be negotiating with CMS for a new waiver regardless. So this is a new innovative idea that we work with Senator Alexander’s office. We work with the TennCare folks. We work with a whole host of people putting this block grant together.

If we’re allowed to do this, there’s absolutely no reduction of people currently served. And that’s one of the things that Jim Cooper and some of my Democratic colleagues will tell you that we’re going to throw people off. That’s absolutely not true. There’s no reduction in people served. There’s no reduction in benefits. There’s no reduction in provider rates. And there’s no reduction to the quality of care that they’ll get.

The idea behind the block grant is it’ll give us the ability to actually address broad. It’ll also give us the ability to restructure benefit packages to better cover the people that we currently serve. And also revitalize the pharmacy program. But here’s the big thing in this Michael Patrick. We will be able to share 50 percent in the savings that we’ve been sending back to Washington without another Tennessee taxpayer dollar being spent.

And when I say that there’s currently a budget neutrality cap. And we’ve been far below that within our Medicaid program for several years now. And this new block grant program will allow us to share in 50 percent of that cost savings and that’s where we’ll be able to administer a more efficient program.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: State Senator Bailey, what can we expect in the special session on education that starts next week?

Bailey: Well, basically the governor is focusing on learning laws, literacy, and also to work towards making sure local school districts and your local counties know that they will have the same budgeting formula, which is called the BEP formula to address, you know, their next upcoming school year which will be the ’21-’22 school year and teacher pay.

So what we’ve seen is that since this pandemic a lot of school districts are not doing in-person learning. We’ve seen a big decrease in our proficiency rates. And also you know our literacy of our third and fourth graders who are just not proficient in reading as they should be and math. So there’s going to be an offer for a summer program. It’ll be permissible by the state to the local school districts so if they choose to do this they can. And then of course basically focusing on teacher pay.

Leahy: So those are the two pieces of legislation you expect. When you say focusing on teacher pay, will this be an attempt to provide more pay for teachers?

Bailey: Yes, it will be.

Leahy: And then the second thing would be funding for summer programs?

Bailey: Summer programs. Exactly. And then of course the big piece is that legislators have been hearing from their school districts basically saying what do we need to expect in our BEP formula for the next school year? Because it’s all based on attendance. In-person attendance. And that’s the way Tennessee funds our school systems. And so when you’ve been and virtual learning and you’ve not actually been in attendance at the school, then school districts have gotten concerned that they are not going to be receiving the same amount of funding that they have been in previous years when students were actually doing in-person learning.

So they’re just wanting to know that they’re going to be able to receive at least the same amount of funding that they had been given in our last budget moving forward into the ’21-’22 budget because we assume that all districts should be back to in-person learning. I mean, I think that’s one of the biggest travesties that we’ve seen is these school districts have not gotten these students back in class and learning in class. And I just think that every school district in the state of Tennessee should have their students back in in-person learning.

Leahy: Senator Bailey, how long do you expect the special session to last? Then when would you go back into the regular session of the Tennessee General Assembly?

Bailey: Well again, there’s no set in date. The start date will be next Tuesday. There’s no said end date. I assume that we will finish it up by Thursday or Friday of next week. I can’t guarantee that. It could flow over into the following week. It just depends on how fast the committee system can work. It’ll be in the education committee and then it’ll move through finance and then ultimately to the floor. We may get all of this done next week because during the special session that’s the only legislation that will be being heard in committee.

And so it’ll be totally focused on that. So if they need to meet Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday through the committee process, they’ll do that and then go to the floor on Friday to vote. That’s what we’ll do. Or we may come back on Monday. But I’m assuming that it will be the same as this week and we’ll be asked to keep our calendar open for next Friday so that if we end up having to go to the floor and vote on this final proposal that’s coming out of committee system that’s what we’ll do.

Leahy: To your knowledge, has when was the last time that a General Session of the Tennessee General Assembly, a regular session was interrupted in the middle by a special session?

Bailey: When Governor Haslam was proposing expanding the Medicaid program during his second term. Which would have been about six years ago. That was the last time that I remember when we came into session that we immediately went into a special session.

Leahy: Interesting. I had forgotten about that. And how effective was that special session back then?

Bailey: Well, obviously it went on for a week and ultimately his proposal hunted make it out of the first committee and the Senate. So it was pretty much dead on arrival there. And so the session ended in about three days, I believe the special session for the Medicaid.

Leahy: Do you have an expectation that this special session will be different? And that the legislation will move forward to completion during the special session?

Bailey: Yes, I do because education is something that the legislature deals with annually. It’s a huge part of the state budget and we’re just trying to make sure that our school districts understand that they’re going to be receiving their funding for their ’21-22′ school year. We want to make sure that we’re addressing the literacy programs that the governor is proposing to the general assembly.

So I expect this to be totally different I expect that lawmakers will get in there. They’ll work through the minutiae. Which again education is minutiae to me. But they’ll work through and make sure that we have legislation that will be passed and that way it’ll give our school districts and their children and frankly their moms and dads comfort in knowing that they’ll have a good education system moving forward.

Leahy: If this had been addressed as part of the regular session of the Tennessee General Assembly whatever the past would have happened that would have taken place when typically by April as opposed to January?

Bailey: Yes, sir. And that’s the thing. So a lot of counties are working on their budget as well as the school districts. And so they’re up against a deadline. And so they’re needing to know whether or not they would have to adjust their local budgets for any reduction in state funding. So that’s another reason that we wanted to go ahead and address this early so that your local governments have some comfort there in knowing that the state is going to continue to fund our schools in a way that they needed to be funded.

Leahy: So it sounds like the governor’s thinking was are these school districts around the state having planning problems because they don’t know what the revenues are going to be. If we just address this in the regular session and they don’t find that out till April it will make the fall a lot more difficult for them to plan for it. Is that the rationale then for the special session?

Bailey: Yes sir. I think so.

Leahy: Well good. You seem to be optimistic that it will in the in a couple of weeks yield the legislation that the governor seeking?

Bailey: I think so. Obviously, this is the governor’s special session. He is going to be presenting his proposed legislation. This is not the legislators’ legislation until it comes into the committee system. And then we ultimately pass it. There will be tweaks to it. There will be you know, legislators will get in and they’ll put their fingerprints on it.

And we’ll be hearing from our local school districts as far as whether or not they think that this is a good program and what they would like to maybe see changed. I can tell you that my local school districts back in the Upper Cumberland are very optimistic about what the governor’s proposing. And they’re looking forward to seeing exactly what we pass.

Leahy: You know, I think it’s been very helpful to our listeners to explain the rationale here for this and it makes sense as you explain it in terms of the timing. One last question on education. Do you anticipate during this special session any attempt to revisit the Education Savings Account or voucher bills at all that is currently in litigation?

Bailey: Well, I’m not 100 percent sure. And I think the keyword that you’ve mentioned is the litigation and what just took place in there unfortunately in the House of Representatives this past Friday. We’re not all 100 percent sure that they were just there to raid those offices.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio